The Best Pilot Watches Under $300: 9 Affordable Aviator Timepieces

Pilot watches have come to define a new style and trend of fashion. They might have started as timepieces for aviators, but they can be donned by anyone who likes the uniqueness of design that they bring to the table. Today, we are going inexpensive – so we look for the best pilot watches under $300.

You don’t have to break the bank to have a feel of these watches. Without sacrificing quality, we have curated some of the nicest-looking and most functional affordable pilot wristwatches at this price range.

At the end of the piece, we have also included a FAQ section on everything you need to know about pilot watches.


Our Picks of The Best Inexpensive Pilot Watches

BRANDNAMEFEATURES
SeikoMen’s Prospex GMT Kinetic Watch42mm, Kinetic Movement, GMT
CitizenEco-Drive CA0648-09L44mm, Tachymeter, Chronographs, Japanese Quartz Movement
BulovaMen’s Sport Watch 96A22545mm, Tachymeter, Lunar Pilot Chronograph
VOSTOKNeptune Amphibian Collection Men’s Watch40mm, GMT, Automatic Movement
SeikoMen’s Pilot Watch42mm, Japanese Quartz Movement, Slide rule bezel, Compass scale
CitizenAvion Eco-Drive Men’s Watch45mm, Japanese Quartz movement, Chronographs
InvictaMen’s Reserve Hydromax52mm, Swiss-made, GMT, Swiss Quartz Movement
Mathey-TissotVintage GMT Watch42mm, GMT
SeikoMen’s Chronograph Watch SSB2999P144mm, Quartz Movement, Tachymeter, Chronograph

Seiko Men’s Prospex GMT Kinetic Watch

Seiko Men’s Prospex GMT Kinetic Watch

Features

  • Size – 42mm
  • Movement – Kinetic
  • GMT Complication
  • Rotational bezel
  • Water resistance – 100m

Seiko is no slouch for excellent watches, and they have proven that with this pilot watch.

We were attracted to this one due to the GMT functionality, allowing pilots and airmen to keep track of time in different time zones at the same time. At 42mm, the watch is suitable for most men’s wrists.

Featuring a pure-black design with red detailing only where necessary, Seiko infuses minimalistic style into this one. Rounded off with kinetic watch movement, this remains one of the most premium additions at this price point.


Citizen Eco-Drive CA0648-09L

Citizen Eco-Drive CA0648-09L

Features

  • Size – 44mm
  • Movement – Japanese Quartz
  • Water resistance – 100m
  • Chronographs – 60-minute counter, 1/5 second counter.
  • Date complication
  • Tachymeter

Citizen knows how to make a large watch that doesn’t feel too big on the wrists. The inclusion of a bezel (which houses the watch tachymeter) makes the face even smaller than the advertised 44mm. Thus, the watch remains suitable for even 42mm wrists without looking too out of place.

Large dials and hour markers significantly improve the visibility and legibility of this watch. The large pushers and crowns do not also go without notice, all boiling down into the makings of a great pilot watch.

To cap it all off, we appreciate that Citizen offers this watch in two different designs. Now, you can choose which one best suits your style and fashion sense.


Bulova Men’s Sport Watch 96A225

Bulova Men’s Sport Watch 96A225

Features

  • Special edition lunar pilot chronograph
  • Size – 45mm
  • Water resistance – 50m
  • Three chronographs
  • Tachymeter

Many people don’t talk about how great Bulova watches are, but we are not most people.

The looks on this one made us fall in love with it. Combining a polished stainless-steel case with a pure blackstrap got us halfway to liking this watch. Pairing the pitch-black watch background and white accents on the hour markets/ dials under a curved sapphire crystal glass got the rest of the job done.

We also love the addition of a tachymeter on the watch. Rather than opting for a bezel, the tachymeter readings were inscribed directly inside the wristwatch. This explains why the manufacturer had to go for a larger case size to accommodate all that information.


VOSTOK Neptune Amphibian Collection Men’s Watch

VOSTOK Neptune Amphibian Collection Men’s Watch

Features

  • Size – 40mm
  • GMT complication
  • Water resistance – 200m
  • Chronograph
  • Movement – Automatic

We don’t need to tell you how classy automatic movement watches can be. That said, VOSTOK is a respected manufacturer famed for being the official supplier of the modern Russian army’s defense department. If that tells us anything, it is how durable, rugged, and functional their watches will be.

The first thing that stood out to us about this watch is the GMT hand. Although the wristwatch lacks a seconds hand, being able to track another time zone on your wrists makes this suitable for pilots and business people. Likewise, we believe that this is the best choice for men with smaller wrists, sitting at 40mm of size.

Simplicity has always been a strong point for VOSTOK. Blending the stainless-steel casing to a bracelet of the same material, the only standout colors here are on the bezel. Speaking of colors, VOSTOK has this watch available in different finishes too.


Seiko Men’s Pilot Watch – Best Choice under $300

Seiko Men’s Pilot Watch

Features

  • Size – 42mm
  • Movement – Japanese Quartz
  • Water resistance – 200m
  • Well-made design
  • Bezel – slide rule, compass scale
  • Luminous lumbrite hour markers

This has to be one of the busiest watch faces that we have seen. Even at that, Seiko managed to make this watch as readable as possible. That is not an easy feat, earning this watch a comparison against the more expensive models like the Omega Speedmaster and Breitling Navitimer, among others.

The watch is big, heavy, and tough in every way you look at it. The large pushers and bezels improve accessibility. Fitted with a system of three chronographs drives up the functionality of the watch to new levels.

The best thing about this watch is the slide rule, which comes in handy to calculate essential flight data, speed, fuel consumption, etc. You can also use it to make an easy and faster conversion of units on the go. 

Seiko allowed for alarm functions within this watch, which is impressive considering its analog nature. The bracelets are equally surprisingly well-made for this price point. Slapping on 200 meters of water resistance for good measure, this could easily be the best pilot watch of all time, costing less than $300 no less.


Citizen Avion Eco-Drive Men’s Watch

Citizen Avion Eco-Drive Men’s Watch

Features

  • Size – 45mm
  • Movement – Japanese Quartz
  • Water resistance – 100m
  • Design – stainless steel case with calfskin leather strap
  • Chronograph functions
  • Date display complication

The name already tells us that Citizen had pilot watches in mind when coming up with this one. Looking at every other thing on the watch, we agree that they did right.

For one, they did not sacrifice on legibility, obvious from building those large hour markers and dials into a 45mm watch. The side buttons and crown cannot be missed even in the dark, all distinctly spaced out and big enough for comfort.

We would have loved to see a bezel on this watch or even a GMT functionality. Something extra to help us get better from this watch. Without those, though, this watch still packs a reliable system of chronographs that will come in handy to time runs, estimate distances, or other related timer functions.


Invicta Men’s Reserve Hydromax – The best option for Large wrists

Invicta Men’s Reserve Hydromax

Features

  • Size – 52mm
  • Swiss-made watch
  • GMT complication
  • Movement – Swiss quartz
  • Water resistance – 300m
  • Unidirectional watch bezel

At 52mm, this is going to be one big watch. Unless you have huge wrists or love oversized wristwatches, we recommend that you stay away from this one and go for others on the list.

The best thing about this watch is how it can double as a diver’s watch too. We should have expected from in the name, seeing the Hydromax tag.

The GMT function, combined with the unidirectional bezel, makes tracking time in two (or even three) time zones a breeze. We don’t need to mention how legible and readable the watch will be, seeing the sheer size of the timepiece itself.

Finally, we can relax on the quality assurance of swiss-made watches on this one. From the casing to the movement, the Swiss brand of quality is evident.


Mathey-Tissot Vintage GMT Watch

Mathey-Tissot Vintage GMT Watch

Features

  • Size – 42mm
  • Movement – quartz
  • Water resistance – 100m
  • Unidirectional rotating bezel
  • GMT complication

At first glance, this watch bears a lot of semblance to the Rolex Explorer/ Explorer II series. That could be a good thing, seeing as the Rolex timepieces are great for pilots (although not dedicated pilot watches).

The first thing that comes to mind here is that this 42mm watch is not exceptionally large. With a batman bezel in tow, the watch will wear smaller than it is. Consider that before putting any money on it.

That aside, you will find the GMT complication especially handy when traversing different time zones. You will also appreciate the quality stainless steel material and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that makes up the watch’s exterior design.

At 100 meters of water resistance, it just gets by. Not that we plan on going deep diving with this one anyways.


Seiko Men’s Chronograph Watch SSB2999P1

Seiko Men’s Chronograph Watch SSB2999P1

Features

  • Size – 44mm
  • Movement – Quartz
  • Chronograph system
  • Water resistance – 100m
  • Tachymeter bezel
  • Adjustable strap

If we wanted a crossover between a pilot watch and one that could pass as an everyday/ casual timepiece, it would be this guy. That earns it the last slot as one of the best pilot watches under $300 also.

Seiko went all-in with the basics – tachymeter bezel on top of durable stainless-steel casing and strap. There are three mini chronograph dials with different calibrations complicating the watch face. The pushers and crown are also oversized enough for comfort.

Taking a step back to look at the watch, it has all the makings of an everyday watch. Not just from its design but perceived ruggedness too. Promising about three years of battery life, you’ll be rocking this timepiece for a long time.


Frequently Asked Questions on Pilot Watches


What is a pilot watch?

A pilot watch is a timepiece with a large, readable face with a generally large case. They should also have a big crown and pushers for easy reach and access, even when worn over clothes.

There is more to a pilot watch than that these days.

For added functionality, pilot watches also benefit from bezels and significant complications (such as GMT and chronographs). Like the Seiko watch above featuring a slider rule and unit conversions, the ideal pilot watch should make an airman’s job easier on the fly.


Why are pilot watches big?

Pilot watches are designed to be massive for easy reading at different angles. The pilot should not have to strain to see the information on their watch. That way, they can get all the needed readings from the timepiece without getting too distracted from their flying.

Most pilot watches also come with added complications and features on the bezels. With a big case diameter, all of those features can fit better without getting cramped.


Are aviator watches any good?

Yes. They are both excellent and functional too.

The right watch can make all the difference for a pilot.


Who makes the best pilot watch?

Citizen, Seiko, Omega, Timex, Breitling, Casio, IWC, Hamilton, Zenith, Alpina, Laco, and more brands make great pilot watches.

The choice of the best pilot watch boils down to a lot of factors. Some of those factors include personal style, budget, and preferences. Thus, we recommend looking through a list of great pilot watches to see which ones would be best suited to you.


Why do pilot watches have a triangle?

The upright triangle on a pilot’s watch allows them to figure out the 12-o-clock marker position, so they can always read the time faster in day or night time.

It all boils down to making the watch very accessible and highly readable for the pilot.

Note that this is not a commonplace feature on all pilot watches. However, it is a mainstay on a significant selection of watches falling under this category too.


What makes a pilot watch different?

There is no ISO standard for what a pilot watch should be. This has left many manufacturers with the room to define the best wristwatch for a pilot. 

After reviewing quite some pilot watches, here are some of the standout features on them:

  • Pilot watches are large.
  • GMT complication
  • Usually simple watch faces
  • The up-facing triangle at the 12-o-clock mark
  • Functional chronographs – flyback chronographs, timers, etc.
  • Tachymeter
  • Slide rule
  • Bezels
  • Water resistance
  • Luminous hands and markers
  • Easy readability
  • Onion/ conical crown

Who made the first pilot watch?

Cartier made the first pilot watch ever. Dubbed the Cartier Santos, this watch also ushered in the wave of modern wristwatches as we know them.